Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ah yes, the Election....

Image may contain: text and water

This rather sums it up, though there were some other issues too. Climate Change obviously didn't get a look - in.

* Eloquent image nicked from Ben Penning's Facebook Page

the Cider Trail - Part 2 -The Two Metre Tall Farmhouse Ale and Cider Shed

Approach to the Two Metre Tall Farmhouse Brewery
The Two Meter Tall Farmhouse Ale and Cider Shed in the Derwent Valley is at home among the gumtrees in a former shearing shed on Ashley and Jane Huntington’s farm at Hayes, just past New Norfolk. While lacking some of the cultivated ambience of say, Willie Smith's, it certainly has the goods under the hood, notably the brewing equipment from St. Ives Hotel in Battery Point. Their dry cider is made from traditional English cider apples grown in the Huon and, unlike mass produced ciders, theirs is slowly fermented in bottles using pure apple juice and natural yeasts. The end product is unfiltered and has no additives, preservatives or sulphur dioxide. Occasionally they also make barrel -aged special editions which include fruit such as cherries or medlars, but this year's batch has already sold out.

Brewhouse with the equipment acquired from St.Ives in Battery Point
Ashley and Jane have been brewing beer here since 2004, well ahead of the growing interest in craft beer, though Ashley (the Two Metre Tall in the name) admits his first brews were not exactly what he had had in mind. Having trained and worked as a senior winemaker in France, he and Jane had planned to start a vineyard, but seeing the abundance of hops in the Derwent Valley and the bounteous supply of fruit, it was almost inevitable that he should turn to Ale and Cider instead, though the vineyard remains on the drawing board.

The business end is much more elaborate than the bar

Having pioneered craft beer in Tasmania, it seems that the Huntingtons are really onto something with cider.  In keeping with global trends which show cider sales to be up by 74% worldwide, the number of  regular cider drinkers in Australia has increased by some half a million between  2013 and 2017 according to Roy Morgan research, and now totals around 2.4 million. Kathleen Willcox,
writing in Vinepair writes that it is the happy conjunction of several trends which  which have helped things along such as the interest in artisanal produce and  the farm - to -table movement.

The other half of Two Metre Tall -  Jane Huntington dispenses some of the house cider 
 There’s no food on offer here, but guests are welcome to bring their own or to have a barbecue in the picnic area.  There’s  a real Aussie feel here. It could be the gumtrees, but it's also about the down -to  -earth attitude of its owners. The slowly matured cider isn’t half bad either.

View from the picnic area

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Cider Trail – Part 1 Willie Smiths

Just a random farm gate made of scrap timber and rusted barbed wire at Willie Smith's Apple Shed, but it embodies some traditional country values such as thrift,  as well as patience, creativity and time

This was going to be about three of our cider makers,  but after searching in vain for one of them  - “The Lost Pippin” out the back of Richmond, it turned out not to be open to the public, so this is it for today. There are at least two more here in the south which I have yet to visit, so consider this a work in progress. The Cider Trail came to my notice while I was in the Huon Valley a couple of weeks ago and lingered a while at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed.  Cider -making seems entirely appropriate for a state which used to be known as the Apple Isle and it also suits the mellowness of the season. Black -faced sheep browse in empty paddocks, the harvest is in, and though a few golden leaves still cling bravely to the vines in vineyards, you can see their bare bones showing through. It reminds me that beyond the cities, nature’s schedules still hold sway.  

Unassuming exterior of the Apple Shed
The cider establishments were a homelier, more convivial affair than the vineyards, where I felt I should have dressed. Since you can buy the product almost anywhere – at a pub, at an anonymous bottle shop or in some identical supermarket which could just as well be in Cairns or Sydney, it’s what I go for really – atmosphere, personality, friendliness. It's also nice to know what's behind the label. Cider belongs here, among the orchards, among the hop fields, among the black -faced sheep.  I also like the earthy, slightly pagan aspect which dates back to pre -history and is celebrated  with wassailing  (singing to the apple trees to ensure an abundant harvest) in the winter festival at Willie Smith’s.

The interior is simple but stylish

At Willie Smith’s, my first port of call was the apple museum. Some 300 apple varieties are on display here including the elusive Geeveston Fanny and a tiny little green one which I’d seen here and there in Hobart but nowhere else – an apple called Grandmere.  The museum tells the story of the apple industry in Tasmania through the lives of several generations of the Smith Family. There are family photos, memorabilia and equipment.  The museum  recalls why Tasmania was called the Apple Isle,  how until the early 1980’s there were over 1000 apple orchards here, producing 8 million apples a year, of which 7 million were sent to Europe. After Britain’s entry into the European Common Market, only three hundred orchards remained including the Smith family's.  I wonder if the Apple Isle will rise again post Brexit, or have we already subdivided all that land? 

Some of the 300 or so apple varieties grown in the Huon.
The famous Geeveston Fanny

Who can forget those old apple labels

The premises, inside one of the original apple sheds are cosy but classy and there’s a big outdoor area with plenty of heating for major events such as the annual winter festival. There is also live music on most Friday nights.Specialities on the menu include pear pistachio tart and fig and apple pudding for a modest $7.  There is also a distillery here, though you have to book a tour to see it.  There’s a little bit of interest everywhere, even in the toilets. I don’t often wax lyrical about toilets but these did catch my eye. Each one was decorated with bits of memorabilia, with just a hint of both social and environmental values – such as the “Thank you” brand toilet soap whose purchase guarantees donation of an equal amount to charity. This reflects a mindset and an attention to detail which I enjoyed as much as the cider.

The apple theme extends to the food

Spirited -Apple brandy is also made here, but you have to do the tour to appreciate it  more closely

Even the littlest room has its charms

Friday, May 03, 2019

Reflections on a River - Walking along the Derwent

Looking east from the bridge at New Norfolk

Dragonflies hover, black swans glide effortlessly over the river’s mirror surface where clouds and mountains are momentarily transfixed. Only the sound of a gimlet -eyed cormorant slicing through the water or the occasional plop of a fisherman’s lure disturb the stillness.

Looking upstream
Over the last couple of weeks we have been exploring some of the lesser known tracks on the Derwent, upstream of its busy harbour. The Derwent's journey begins 239 Km away in glacially formed Lake St. Clair - Australia’s deepest lake, and winds slowly down from the Central Plateau to the sea. Along the way it supplies drinking water, water for agriculture, industry and hydro - electricity for 41% of the population. It also provides recreational opportunities and nurtures the plants and animals which live in and along its route. Since it traverses a wide range of habitats - from the mountains of the Central Plateau to marshlands and occupies the borderland between saltwater and fresh, it is home to a wide variety of species.  Much could be said about its history or about it being the site of our earliest extinctions, or about its contamination* due to past industrial practices or about the cruises you could take, but today I want to focus on its beauty, something which has rarely been mentioned. Where, I wonder are our poets and balladeers, our Mark Twains, our Henry David Thoreau, or maybe a Banjo Paterson or a Smetana  to sing the praises of our river?


It occurs to me that our pioneers were practical folk, too busy trying to wrest a living from an alien land to wax lyrical about their surroundings.  Not that the river’s utility was ever denied. For Aboriginal people, it was a major food source.  Early mariners made terse notes in their logs about its deep, safe anchorage and the availability of fresh water, though the convicts hacking stone from the riverbanks or standing waist deep in its mud to make the causeway across it, would most likely have shouted curses rather than praise. Shippers of goods and people still appreciate its navigability, long after the coming of the roads, and the farmers and engineers who came later, would have revelled in its consistent flow, yet of its beauty there is never a word.

In the marshy lower sections native reeds help to remove pollutants

I would like to remedy that. I am thinking that we need a poetry competition or similar, such as the Friends of the Mississippi have. Any funds raised by say, holding an exhibition, could go towards remediating some of the damage done over the last two hundred years, so that its beauty will be more than skin deep. We could include photos, paintings, music or any other media. Not sure what the prize should be or whether local councils could be interested.  Other ideas welcome. Will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of quotes about rivers for inspiration:

“I have an immoderate passion for water; for the sea, though so vast, so restless, so beyond one's comprehension; for rivers, beautiful, yet fugitive and elusive; but especially for marshes, teeming with all that mysterious life of the creatures that haunt them. A marsh is a whole world within a world, a different world, with a life of its own, with its own permanent denizens, its passing visitors, its voices, its sounds, its own strange mystery.”

View from the Bridgewater end

Or maybe this one:

 “I thought how lovely and how strange a river is. A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too. It widens and deepens as it rubs and scours, gnaws and kneads, eats and bores its way through the land. Even the greatest rivers- the Nile and the Ganges, the Yangtze and the Mississippi, the Amazon and the great grey-green greasy Limpopo all set about with fever trees-must have been no more than trickles and flickering streams before they grew into mighty rivers.
Are people like that? I wondered. Am I like that? Always me, like the river itself, always flowing but always different, like the water flowing in the river…. “

Not the best picture, but here you can see some of the Black swans which populate the river -but note how dry the banks remain

How is your river? What do you love about it and are you doing anything special to protect it?

 Love your river

More Walks
Walking and Cycling Tracks  Around the Derwent - Click here
Walks around New Norfolk - Click here


You need a licence to fish anywhere upstream of the Bowen Bridge and some species should not be taken, especially shellfish. Flathead, being bottom feeders, should not be consumed more than twice a week and not at all by children or pregnant women. Find out more here.


Both Tripadvisor and Viator show a number of cruises which depart from Hobart and the Mona Ferries would also be an excellent way to travel upstream

Helping the River or want to know more, Click here

Monday, April 22, 2019

Dalliance in Dover

Boats in the Harbour, people on the beach

I am talking about Dover, Tasmania, not the one of UK fame, though there is a tenuous link. It is said that the pier of the original Dover was built from Huon Pine exported from here. Our Dover (pop. 862) is a pretty little fishing village about 81 Km south of Hobart.  It is Australia’s most southerly township and about the last place where you can buy supplies before heading to places such as Ida Bay, Hastings Caves or Cockle Creek. 

Begun as a convict station in around 1840- 1844, it became an important timber supplier to the
world until the First World War, though one mill survived until the 1970's. Other mainstays of the region such as orcharding and fishing also had their ups and downs. Serious apple growing went into a decline when the UK joined the European Common Market and Dover’s busy fishing fleet gradually diminished as modern technology increased catches and laid waste to the seemingly endless supplies of scallops, couta and crayfish.

Busy stalls line the foreshore

 Since then, Dover has largely reinvented itself as a tourist and retirement destination, though a small number of fishing boats as clean and sleek as its population of seagulls continues to occupy its picturesque harbour. Quaint cottages dot the hillsides and offer a variety of accommodation and activities. Further along Esperance Bay there are fish farms which have taken up some of the slack left by the traditional fishery.  Adamson’s Peak looking rather like a  movie prop because of its near pyramidal shape, fills in the backdrop in the West.

Seafest revellers

It's definitely a family occasion

Today we are here for Seafest an annual celebration which includes a regatta. The weather is perfect. The co -mingled smells of fish and barbecues fill the air. Though the main focus is on seafood, stalls offer everything from local wines and cider to locally made crafts. Children take to the beach and the bouncy castle, while music is supplied by a couple performing on the flatbed of a truck.  Further along the beach eager supporters urge on competitors in what looks like a three boat race. My friend goes in search of scallops, pride of the region. We share a puffin muffin, which is actually a very well filled and messy cream puff and then we both have some satay sticks because the aroma is too tantalising to resist.

We did - home of the puffin muffin

Thus fortified we do a pleasant walk along the beach and then attempt another at the end of the nearby Narrows Road which unfortunately ends in a heavy duty gate. Still, the drive home through the Huon Valley with its turning leaves and orchards bursting with ripening fruit, more than makes up for it.

Apples ready to harvest
Too perfect - Adamson's peak presides over fishing boats and pleasure craft

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Don’t spoil our Mountain!

There’s another big stoush brewing in Hobart. This time it’s about the proposal to put a cable car up Mt. Wellington. This mountain (1271 m) overlooks most of the city and is its most distinctive landmark -on a par with Tokyo’s Mt. Fuji or Bali’s Gung Agnung.

The main objection by residents is that the proposed route runs directly across its face and across the “The Organ Pipes,” one of its most impressive features, thereby spoiling the view for everyone – tourists and locals alike. I mean would the Japanese tolerate an intrusive manmade structure on Mt. Fuji, despoiling that picture postcard look? I don’t think so. Mt. Rushmore has a chairlift but does it run up the face (s)? No. It provides much enjoyment some two miles away from the historic monument and is no less popular for that. This is our Mt. Rushmore.

Views over South Arm and the South East
One of the things which impressed me in many places in Asia, was that despite cities being very crowded and devoted almost entirely to economic activity with little regard for urban planning or aesthetics, the mountains were largely inviolate with only the occasional ancient temple to interrupt the forest cover. For many people, including our Aboriginal people, mountains have spiritual significance and even people without a shred of spirituality,  still go to the mountain to commune with nature, not concrete and steel. Except for a lady with a pram, I have rarely heard anyone complain about the two minute walk from the Carpark to the summit. One of the major reasons people visit Tasmania -and bring in far more tourist dollars than those which have been promised by the cable car company, is precisely because the ratio of nature to people and built structures currently favours nature.  A cable car up the front of the mountain would immediately challenge that perception.

View over Hobart and the Derwent

Not that I am personally opposed to cable cars as such. I have seen some that fit in rather well -for instance those in Valparaiso, or the one that takes you to the Royal Palace in Budapest. Both of these are relatively urban, blend into their surroundings and do not offend the eye. Those at Mt. Elbrus in Russia, come in both kinds. The upward journey over three cable cars is of the in- your- face kind, but runs over neighbouring foothills, while the downward journey takes you down the back of the mountain, stopping halfway at a service centre with restaurants and souvenir stalls, and then proceeds gently downhill around the the mountain under tree -cover to the bus parking area. I’m sure that if a cable car could be built discreetly and in sympathy with the environment and the sensibilities of other users, both groups could be satisfied.

View to the North East  - of course the mountain is visible from below at all these points too

What is far more offensive in my view, is the way our state government has ridden roughshod over the wishes of its citizens and their local councils and virtually given a private company carte blanche, without allowing for adequate consultation with those who will be most affected. This is after all the  People’s Park. They should not be bullied into accepting major changes to their skyline.

Spectacular as this vew is, no private company should have the right to control the summit, especially not in a public reserve that belongs to all Tasmanians. Nor should it be open to commercial exploitation.